Gvozdetskaya N.Yu. Formulas and Vocabulary of Ritual Speech in Old English Heroic Epic (Based on Direct Speech in the Poem Beowulf)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu2.2016.4.17

Natalya Yu. Gvozdetskaya

Doctor of Sciences (Philology), Associate Professor, Head of Department of English Philology, Russian State University for the Humanities

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Abstract. The paper deals with the linguistic and poetic analysis of the formula 'X maþelode' ('someone said') in comparison to other ways of introducing direct speech in the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf. It is considered to be dependent upon the situations of feast and battle which are regarded as the most significant social acts of the early Middle Ages. Its connection with ritual actions such as greeting, boasting, giving oath, flyting, giving treasures, etc. is analysed – the actions which accompanied ceremonial interaction of the nobility. Its close links with canons of Old Germanic alliterative verse and poetics of heroic epic is described, as well as the means of lexical and semantic variability and contextual extension. In the position of the subject ('X maþelode') proper names prevail which shows the connection of the formula with alliterative lists of names of Old Germanic chieftains. The presence of patronymic, ethnonymic and eponymous names as well as words emphasizing the formal type of communication indicates the important role of this formula in displaying the values of the heroic world. At the same time, the anonymous author's remarks, narrative or reflective, testify to the serious changes which the poetics of heroic epic has undergone after the conversion of England. The cognates and derivatives of the verb maþelian allow to refer the semantics of the formula 'X maþelode' to the period of Germanic tribal community. Its subsequent fate is predetermined by the extinction of the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition and the transformation of the English society after the Norman invasion of England. However, the verbal form maþelode has given its function of a high poetic word to its synonym cwæþ, which is represented in the poetry of modern times as quoth.

Key words: poetic formulas, ritual, direct speech, Old English poetry, alliterative verse, Beowulf.

Citation.  Gvozdetskaya N.Yu. Formulas and Vocabulary of Ritual Speech in Old English Heroic Epic (Based on Direct Speech in the Poem Beowulf). Science Journal of Volgograd State University. Linguistics, 2016, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 168-178. (in Russian). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu2.2016.4.17

 

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